It has now been almost six full weeks of the 2018 NFL season, and normally by now, most teams would have an idea of where they stand. But this year, there are very few teams that can be classified as definitely good or definitely bad.
At the very top of the league, the LA Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are both undefeated and look like powerhouses. At the bottom, teams like the Oakland Raiders have lost games by large margins, but have kept some other ones close.
Here are some takeaways from Week 6’s games to see if any teams have found their identity:
Buccaneers 29 at Falcons 34
After losing four of their first five games, three by one possession, the Falcons offense led a crucial victory to move to 2-4 and keep their playoff hopes alive. Matt Ryan had another great game with 354 yards and while Julio Jones continued his touchdown-less stretch, he did have 10 catches for 143 yards.
Atlanta’s banged up defense looked good for three quarters, but almost gave away the game in the final frame. They allowed 13 points and let Tampa Bay drive all the way down the field, only surviving because of a dropped lateral by DeSean Jackson 7 yards short of the end zone.
The Buccaneers should be delighted with what they got from Jameis Winston in his first regular-season start of the season. He threw for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns, nearly stealing the win with a last-minute fourth-quarter drive. If Winston can continue to play like this, Tampa can be confident that they have their QB of the future.
Chargers 38 at Browns 14
Philip Rivers is a dark horse candidate in the MVP discussion. He currently has 15 touchdowns and three interceptions on the season and has been leading his offense to consistent high scoring outputs. He dropped one into a bucket for a touchdown to Tyrell Williams, who was in triple coverage. Hopefully fans will realize Rivers’ greatness as the year goes on.
The Browns as a whole have been up and down this season. Baker Mayfield has had games where he takes what is given to him and keeps his team in the game, but also games like today when he threw for two interceptions. The defense has followed suit, with four games of allowing 21 points or less, but allowing 38 or more twice.
The Chargers are for real this year. The only teams they have lost to are the two remaining undefeated teams, Kansas City and the other team from LA. After years of hype only to end up missing the playoffs, this team looks like it will actually come through on its talent level. Then again, a few field goal mishaps could always end up derailing the Chargers’ season.
Seahawks 27 at Raiders 3
Oakland is one of the few teams that can be declared essentially out of the playoff race. They don’t have an identity on offense. Derek Carr threw a lot of short passes, partially because their receivers couldn’t get open downfield after the Amari Cooper injury. Their offensive line didn’t help at all, letting defenders through in both the passing and running game.
Russell Wilson played a near perfect game, with his only blemish being an interception that bounced off a defender’s helmet. Instead of being the entire offense, he is taking what he can get and allowing his teammates to make plays while still taking deep shots when they’re present. The Wilson – Tyler Lockett deep ball connection showed up again this game.
Panthers 17 at Redskins 23
After getting absolutely crushed by the Saints last Monday night, Washington bounced back and beat Carolina. They are still leading the NFC East, but look like a typical Redskins team; play well one week and disappoint the next. Alex Smith was solid, but the offense couldn’t put the game away in the second half.
The Panthers made a questionable decision regarding the pass/run split. Cam Newton threw the ball 40 times while they only rushed 18 times, nine by Cam himself. Carolina has been winning games by giving the ball to Christian McCaffery a lot, but went away from that. They need to return to the running game so that defenses don’t keep dropping extra men into coverage.
Bills 13 at Texans 20
After starting 0-3, the Texans have won three in a row and are now tied for the AFC South division lead. Deshaun Watson played inconsistently but once again made throws to Hopkins and Will Fuller at the end to tie the game. Jonathan Joseph picked off Nathan Peterman with the game tied at 13-13 and took it to the house to win the game.
Houston’s lines were completely opposite of each other. Their defensive line was all over Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman all game, forcing errant throws. On the other hand, the offensive line let Deshaun Watson get pressured all game long and need to get better to keep their franchise quarterback healthy.
Buffalo lost, but their biggest concern is Josh Allen’s second-half injury. It shouldn’t be too serious since it was his elbow rather than something like his knee. However, they will want to wait until he is fully healed to put him back in the starting lineup.
Cardinals 17 at Vikings 27
Vikings starting running back Dalvin Cook missed yet another game for the Vikings, but Latavius Murray showed out against Arizona with 155 rushing yards and a touchdown. Adam Thielen also had a great game with 123 receiving yards and a touchdown; He’s been the best receiver in the league this year and the only one with over 100 yards in every game.
Josh Rosen has been good when he has protection, but hasn’t shown anything special when the line breaks down. With multiple injuries during the game, the line broke down a lot today. While Rosen wasn’t very bad, he wasn’t great either.
Steelers 28 at Bengals 20
The AFC North continues to be tight, with Pittsburgh taking down the Bengals and coming within a half-game of the two teams in first place.
James Connor showed again that the Steelers could be fine without Le’Veon Bell. He looks a lot like Bell out on the field, combining power with finesse in both the run and pass catching game. Pittsburgh could be convinced that trading Bell is the best move for the organization.
Cincinnati continues to struggle against Pittsburgh, having lost to them for the sixth time in a row at home. Their defense had stops on the final drive, but committed multiple penalties to keep the drive alive. Key defensive penalties have been a problem throughout Marvin Lewis’ tenure; until that gets fixed, Cincy will continue to disappoint with the game on the line.
Bears 28 at Dolphins 31
This was a crazy game throughout and was typical of this year’s Dolphins, but got even crazier in OT. Miami had 3rd and goal at the half-yard line and Kenyan Drake lost a fumble. Then, the Bears drove down and missed a 52-yard field goal, allowing Miami to drive back down and kick a game-winning field goal.
Trubisky had a bad first half but bounced back to make some nice throws in the second half. He’s still inconsistent as a young quarterback but has shown potential to be the Bears franchise quarterback.
Miami seems to be playing above its talent level. Even with quarterback Ryan Tannehill injured, Brock Osweiler came in and delivered with 380 yards and 3 touchdowns. They are getting lucky, but this is also a testament to good coaching.
Rams 23 at Broncos 20
The Rams won close again in a game where Gurley carried the offense since Goff was not as accurate as normal. Todd Gurley keeps dominating every team he plays, in both the running and receiving game and has a total of 11 touchdowns through three games. He’s putting himself in the MVP conversation, even on a fully loaded team.
Denver has been close in every game they played this year and are now 2-4. Keenum hasn’t been playing particularly well, so it may be time for them to bench him and see what youngster Chad Kelly has in the tank. Their defense, though, is still very good. Bradley Chubb, their fifth overall pick, had a breakout performance. He dominated at the line of scrimmage all day and finished the game with three sacks.
Jaguars 7 at Cowboys 40
The Jaguars-Cowboys game was the epitome of this year’s craziness. Jacksonville’s defense was the best in football last year and this year, had only allowed 30 points in one game (to the number two offense in football). Then they came out in Dallas and laid an egg, allowing 40 points to the Cowboys, who had scored the third fewest points per game until this point.
Speaking of the Dallas offense, this performance came out of nowhere. Outside of Ezekiel Elliott, who had his typical 100-yard rushing game with a touchdown, the Cowboys played way above their normal level. Dak Prescott was throwing darts all over the field, including two tight touchdowns to Cole Beasley. Their offensive line played at a high level. Dallas is in the thick of a very tight NFC East race.
While T.J. Yeldon has been solid filling in, Jacksonville really needs Leonard Fournette back. He’s a punishing running back who moves drives along slowly, helping the defense stay fresh. The Jags offense runs through Fournette; his return will take pressure off Blake Bortles as well as the offensive line.